Branded content takes centre-stage in OTT players' game plan

While there are several ways through which OTT platforms monetise from brands and ads, the pie of branded content in this revenue is only becoming larger over time

Akansha Srivastava
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The OTT market is expected to grow at a CAGR of more than 20% to reach $13-15 billion over the next decade, according to TMT (Technology, Media, and Telecommunications) Predictions 2022 report by Deloitte.

The same report also states that India currently has about 102 million SVOD subscribers and this number is estimated to increase at a CAGR of 17% to reach 224 million by 2026. The report has predicted that India’s AVOD market is expected to continue to pull in more revenue than SVOD, increasing its current rate from $ 1.1 billion in 2021 to $ 2.4 billion in 2026.

With such growth numbers in place, marketers across categories are flocking to OTT platforms like never before. While there are several ways through which OTT platforms monetise from brands and ads, the pie of branded content in this revenue is only becoming larger over time.

Chanpreet Arora

Chanpreet Arora, Head - AVOD (Voot), Viacom18 Digital Ventures, told that Voot Studios ( Voot’s content tech solution for advertisers) and other brand integrations, excluding advertisers funded programmes, contribute at least 20-25% to the overall revenue of the platform. She expects the share of branded content to be 50% in the next two years.

“The engagement rate on Voot is very high. The platform has over 52 minutes of watch time per week. Such a kind of engagement opens the gate of opportunity for brands to engage with the audience in form of integrations, second-screen experiences, interactivity, creating immersive ads and also branded content. One can easily target the content to users to whom the brand is trying to reach out on OTT,” said Arora.

From content integration to creating content to solve brands’ problems and executing the production work for the brands, Voot does it all.

Recently, Voot launched Dell XPS Youniverse Creators” for Dell Technologies. The show focuses on creators, who excel in various art forms, coming together in a Creative Residency to collaborate and create masterpieces using the Dell XPS.

Voot has also worked with Bill and Melinda Gates to promote Covid-appropriate behaviour and Instagram to promote their Reels feature, among many other content-led solutions for brands. Voot also partnered with Myntra for Season 3 of Myntra Fashion Superstar.

“We are ahead of all our peers in the capabilities that we have built for Voot Studios. Our revenues are in the top-2 in the bespoke content category (excluding branded content integration done in sports content). Voot still continues to be one of the largest in terms of bespoke and premium AFP content on OTT,” said Arora. 

Ashish Sehgal

Talking about Zee5’s focus on branded content, Ashish Sehgal, Chief Growth Officer, ZEEL, said that he foresees branded content to be a major growth engine in the coming years. “With MAUs crossing the 100 million mark on Zee5, and increasing watch time, the platform provides significant benefits creating a multi-platform opportunity for brands to showcase their content, he said.

While fashion, edtech and FMCG are the leading advertisers on OTT, “Emerging sectors like cryptocurrency as well as traditional industries like mutual funds are looking at branded content on OTT to drive across their messaging to their core target group, given the innovations and freedom of content creation that OTT platforms can provide,” said Sehgal while pointing out on how Zee5 will be one of the major pillars of ZEEL’s branded content business growth.

Some of Zee5’s major branded content include Pedigree ‘Adopt don’t Shop’ and ‘Be Indie Proud’ which was a purpose-driven campaign to promote the adoption of dogs. For Ultratech, Zee5 created a series of short brand films – UltraTech ‘Baat Ghar Ki’.

“The success of Baat Ghar Ki Season 1 in the Hindi-speaking markets led UltraTech to extend the concept to other regional markets including Bangla, Tamil and Telugu for Season 2,” said Sehgal.

For Nestle’s Maggi brand, Zee5 created 12 episodes original series, ‘Maggi Kitchen Journeys’, to celebrate women entrepreneurs who made a mark for themselves through the food route. Zee5  has also worked with Dabur, Philips, Alpenliebe and others.

“Not only this, but we also provide brands with the opportunity to host their self-produced branded content on our platform, e.g., Garnier Men Brocast (starring John Abraham and Tiger Shroff) thereby extending the benefit of ZEE5’s massive reach to brands,” said Sehgal.

Suresh Menon

Suresh Menon, Content and Creative Head for MX Studios, calls MX player the “go-to destination for brands”. He said that the MX Player is very much bullish about the growth of branded content in the years to come.

“Second only to YouTube in India in terms of scale, MX Player caters to a large and diverse audience base across the length and breadth of the country. We offer businesses bespoke content solutions and the team drives the narrative in a manner that sees the brand ethos match the content, thereby making for seamless and engaging integration for the brand, as well as driving relevance for the viewer,” commented Menon.

MX Player has created several marquee properties for brands like “The Right Click” and ‘Balcony Buddies’, wherein it created an interactive short film as product innovation for AXE and Amazon, respectively. The other major brands for which MX player has created content-led solutions are BMW Motorrad, Castrol Power1 Ultimate and GoPro, MG Motor and Gujarat Tourism. Recently, the platform launched the show Wanderlust - a travelogue with Rubina Dilaik and Abhinav Shukla for Abu Dhabi Tourism.

Similarly, SonyLiv has also upped its branded content game plan. In its recently concluded Shark Tank show, the OTT platform created special content for brands like Black Dog for its ‘Savour the pause’ campaign. It has also worked with upGrad and Flipkart in the past.

Not just the national players, the regional OTT players have also upped their branded content play. Many of the regional OTT platforms rely on SVOD (Subscription-based Video-On-Demand) model. Only some of them have an AVOD (Advertising-based Video on Demand) and SVOD both as they don’t want to hamper the audience’s content consumption experience. Therefore, most of them work with brands in the form of offering branded content, product placements, brand integrations and avoiding direct ads on their platforms.

Soumya Mukherjee

In one of the previous interviews with, Soumya Mukherjee, VP – Revenue and Strategy at Hoichoi, said, “We have created a different segment for branded content which will include stories around the brand yet again not shifting the storytelling we do at Hoichoi. As of now, we have worked with three brands, namely Senco Gold, PC Chandra Jewellers and Asian Paints. Each of these brands has a national presence. We created a mini-series surrounding the key message they wanted to put forward. For example, Senco Gold wanted to do something around Valentine’s Day and PC Chandra Jewellers wanted to do something around family. This was free for the audiences to watch.”

Radhakrishnan Ramachandran

In the same interview, Radhakrishnan Ramachandran, Founder and CEO, Studio Mojo, said branded content is a strong focus area for them. He said, “We have launched an influencer network called Folo, as part of Koode (Malayalam OTT platform), where we have onboarded close to 80 creators/influencers. Our marketing team will bring together these creators and brands since branded content is a strong focus area for us, especially for genres such as lifestyle and fashion, automobile, and technology.”

While major OTT players are upping their sports content library, currently, Disney+Hotstar is the clear winner in this space. The platform will be offerings several innovations in the branded content space with customised content creation and influencer-led content for IPL this year.

“While customised content Creation will be all about bespoke content creation to enable the brand to tell its story at scale, influencer-led content will be about leveraging the power of influencers as spokesperson to tell your brand's story,” the spokesperson said.

The digital broadcaster will be tapping on the ongoing buzz around content creation in various forms along with branded segments where associations in the form of branded segments for the pre and post-match segments will be introduced.

Reasons fuelling the growth of branded content on OTT

Consumers avoid watching ads unless it is really compelling or unique. Then how can marketers reach out to the consumers? Only and only through content!

Arora of Voot said that the digital medium gave an opportunity to brands to go beyond advertising and start creating content. “It is the same ethos that is driving Indian OTT players where we are creating opportunities for branded integration into the content. We are also creating customised content for advertisers where they can come and own the space to tell stories that align with their brand in the tonality which is the strength of the platform.”

Menon of MX Player said that the pandemic has further accelerated the growth of the OTT sector and at a time when cord-cutting is becoming increasingly common, it has led brands to collaborate with OTTs to reach their target audience. He further said, “Television channels as a medium have remained stagnant for a while, making traditional advertisers look at OTT platforms for their business needs.”

Also, several people go to OTT to watch the content of their choice without being interrupted by ads. Keeping this consumer behaviour in mind, the OTT players also ensure there aren’t too many ads on the platform and instead provide content-led solutions to brands and help them engage with the consumers.

branded content OTT players game plan